Egyptian authorities say archeologists have found an ancient tomb that suggests another necropolis is yet to be discovered near the Great Pyramids of Giza. The burial chamber is that of a high priest from the Old Kingdom period, whose job it was to maintain the mortuary cult of the pharaoh Khafra. Susan Yackee spoke about the find with VOA’s Middle East correspondent Elizabeth Arrott in Cairo.
Yackee: What can you tell us about the importance of the discovery?
Arrott: Well, first, it turns out is a very beautiful tomb. It’s carved right into the cliff face of the Giza plateau, and leading up to it, there’s a series of limestone tunnels – what the archeologists are describing as almost like a maze to get to the burial chamber. And inside there’s some very well preserved paintings, detailed works showing daily life of the time.
The other thing that has the teams very excited is the idea this may be just the tip of a necropolis – or burial ground – that they didn’t know about before.
Of course, this is near what’s arguably the world’s most famous tribute to the dead – the Great Pyramids, and in recent years they’ve made some wonderful discoveries, including a village for the builders of the Pyramids, that suggests they weren’t slaves, as most people had thought, but rather but a highly organized, obviously, group of paid laborers that built the pyramids.
Yackee: Can you tell us about the man whose tomb they discovered?
Arrott: His name is Rudj Ka and he had a number of positions in the royal court. His main job, it seems, is that he was purification priest for the king Khafra. He’s the Old Kingdom ruler who has the second biggest pyramid at Giza – actually it’s the one that looks the highest, it isn’t, it’s just that it’s built on a slight elevation.
Rudj Ka probably lived many years after Khafra, and he would have been responsible to keep up all the rites and rituals tied to the cult of Khafra in the afterlife. These kind of positions were thought out well beforehand – rulers would set up endowments to make sure they continued to be properly worshipped well beyond their time on earth.
Yackee: You mentioned paintings in the walls of the tomb. What do they show?
I think one of the things they show is that being a priest in Old Kingdom Egypt was probably a pretty nice job to have. You see Rudj Ka hunting and fishing and out on boats in the marshes. There are also paintings of him and his wife and they seem to be a rather attractive couple. You see them in front of an offering table full of all sorts of gifts -- cows and geese and bread.
So these paintings and the construction of the tomb itself -- these are all the kind of details that help archeologists and historians fill out the amazing complexities of Egyptian life 4000 years ago.